Autumn Wedding

Autumn Wedding

Recently I married a beautiful couple at Camperdown Commons and it was a perfect Autumn Sydney day to celebrate their wedding. Arlen and Jasmine found me on the Marriage Equality Website before the changed legislation, it was important to them that they had a celebrant whose values were aligned with theirs. I must say it was particularly memorable to use the amended monitum in their ceremony for them and for me.

Jasmine and Arlen were down to earth about all aspects of their wedding and it could not have been more beautiful. As a florist herself, Jasmine called on her friend Natasha from Crowns and Wreaths floristry Crowns and Wreaths by Natasha Pitkanen for the flowers and the photographs, which are amazing were taken by Melbourne photographer Kate from The Nook Film & Photography @thenookweddings. 

The story of this couple was a pleasure to learn and to relate to their guests as an integral part of their ceremony. I really enjoyed getting to know Arlen and Jasmine as a couple and individually and I look forward to hearing about their life together into the future.

Mother's Day

Mother's Day

Today I led a Mother's Day Memorial Service for families who lost their mothers over the last year. I was my mum's birthday the day I was  asked to be the celebrant for the memorial and as I wrote the service she was on my mind. I hope that she would have been proud of what I said today. 

Mother's Day can be a day of mixed emotions, especially for those whose mothers have died or those who have experienced the loss of a baby or child or those whose relationship with their mother is fraught. Almost 29 years ago our second daughter Jessica was stillborn and 15 years ago Mum died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 71. Each Mother's Day I think of them and I miss them.

I am very lucky though to have my two daughters Emma and Michelle and now my granddaughter Isabelle who is an absolute delight, each of whom I celebrated today. I  have many wonderful friends who are great mothers and whose children and grandchildren I also celebrate. So a big shout out to the mothers, grandmothers, foster mothers, mother figures and especially bereaved mothers who deserve to be honoured not only today but everyday for all that they do.

In the words of Jill Churchill, There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one and I like to think we all try to do our best and that's the best we can do!

A Life Celebration

A Life Celebration

Recently I performed a private committal service and then a memorial for a beautiful man that I had been working with for the past few months. He knew he was dying and he wanted to ensure that his farewell was as he wanted. I met with him on three occasions and while we were together he told me his story. We both rejoiced in his recollections of his travels and work, his relationships and also his shortcomings which he wanted me to know; he didn't want to be remembered as a saint. I met privately with his wife on several more occasions so that we could talk openly and she express her feelings without impacting on her husband. In all, we spent a few months building new but powerful relationships. At the memorial I read the eulogy I had written from the stories he told me, he knowing that I would stand before his friends and family and share it. This was a powerful journey for us all to undertake and I was left feeling very glad that I had been able to play this part in his and his wife's life but I was also left feeling bereft. I was very saddened when I heard the news of his death. It is always such a privilege to be a part of the planning of a life celebration, but this was especially so and I valued greatly being able to take into consideration what he wanted but also what would best help his friends and family to celebrate as well as grieve in a healthy and open way knowing that their loved one had been farewelled as he wanted. 

Marriage Equality

Marriage Equality

People around the country are in celebration mode and I couldn't be happier. Of course, as a civil marriage celebrant I relish in the idea of being able to perform same sex weddings but it's much more than that. What I am truly happy about is the acceptance and validation that this legislation brings with it. Marriage equality is one part of a much bigger picture. For my family and friends who have not been afforded the same rights as the rest of us I am truly happy. For all those around the country who have felt the brunt of the process, I am sorry and I really hope that the passing of this legislation begins the healing process. For all those who belong to the LGBTQI community I send my love and best wishes for a brighter future, not only for you but for the generations to come!

The Cycle of Life

The Cycle of Life

There are signs everywhere we look of the cycle of life and none more overt than those seen at a celebration of life service. I smile inwardly as I witness a baby's pram parked alongside a walking frame when I walk into a funeral space. It is a wonderful reminder that there are those who remain and those who follow and that each of us is born on this earth to learn and to love and to live our lives. We are also born to live on in the hearts and minds of others when it is our time to go.

Marriage Equality #LoveIsLove

Marriage Equality #LoveIsLove

How can I begin to explain how happy I am to see Australia vote YES this week? For my family and friends who have been denied access to marriage I am over the moon, finally there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I can't wait to begin celebrating with them if and when they decide to "tie the knot". It's about more than that though. Seeing Hannah Gadsby's incredibly moving show "Nanette" recently, reminded me of the deep seated prejudice that is a part of Australia's dark history and watching and listening to the debate of recent times has shown that there are still those whose views remain unchanged. My hope is that now Australians have spoken we can move forward with pride and without prejudice towards acceptance that love is love and I can finally be the marriage celebrant at my first same sex wedding. YES!!!

Wedding Anniversary

Wedding Anniversary

Many years ago on this day my mum and dad were married. Neither of them is with us anymore but on their day I think about them and the life they shared as husband and wife. Their marriage was far from perfect but they stuck together, raising four children and devoting themselves to their grandchildren with great love and care.

As I look at this photo I see the love and hope that was no doubt a part of their big day. Mum was a great beauty and dad scrubbed up okay too. My Aunty Rhonda and Aunty Barbara were the bridesmaids, neither of them is still alive, but they were also a big part our lives growing up.

Some aspects of the wedding have changed greatly since this time but others remain the same. As I reflect on this and the marriages I perform it reminds me that we need to move on as a society and have marriage reflect the time in which we live. I very much look forward to marriage equality and I know that my mum and dad would wish for this too. I don’t think we ever had the conversation but they were always completely accepting and inclusive and I know they would want everyone to have the right to marry as they did.

Being a Grandma

Being a Grandma

While I didn’t have a wedding or a funeral this weekend, I did celebrate life by visiting my daughter, son-in-law and new granddaughter in Melbourne. What a wonderful few days I had, lots of love, smiles, cuddles, rocking, singing and more were had.

It was such a pleasure to be able to lighten the load a bit for these amazing new parents. They are doing such a great job and their little bundle of joy is so happy and relaxed as a result.

I can’t begin to express how much I am looking forward to getting to know Isabelle Grace as she grows, to spending time showing her things, reading to her, singing her songs, taking her places and just hanging around taking the time to do the things she wants to do.

Being a grandmother is all I had hoped it would be and more. Watching my daughter with her daughter is one of the most amazing things I could ever witness. Thank you to Emma and Jono for so generously sharing their beautiful daughter with me and letting me spend time beginning to nourish one of my most important friendships of my life.

Jess and Adrian

Jess and Adrian

Yesterday I had the privilege of marrying a beautiful couple, who just happened to be ex-students of mine. Their love began as 12 year olds and 16 years later they are now husband and wife. It was such a special day for me and as I drove home from their ceremony I was still very much caught up in the love that was present at their wedding.

It was lovely to spend time learning about their lives, their relationship and their hopes for the future while we were preparing their wedding ceremony. From the moment we first met to get started, they expressed their excitement about having me as their celebrant and how special it was to them to have someone they knew take on that role. Well it was very, very special for me to take on the role and to be a significant part of their big day.

I also taught some of the groomsmen and the two maids of honour, and as I looked out on the people gathered to witness the marriage, I was able to look into the eyes of many students I had taught as teenagers. They had all grown to be such confident and beautiful young adults and catching up with them after the ceremony filled my heart with gratitude and joy. 

As I reflect on what was a wonderful day for me, I'm hoping that for Jess and Adrian it was even better.

In Memory

In Memory

When I sit down with a family or the friends of a person who has died, I sit down in a space filled with love, a room where those present have the united purpose of finding a fitting way to celebrate a life. There is sadness, the grief of loss, but in the stories I am told there is also joy and with it gratitude for the life that has been shared.

I have the privilege of getting to know the person through the eyes of those who have loved them. While I only ever get to see a photograph of this loved one, in reality I get to see much more than that. A complete picture forms as the story is shared, bringing forth with it details of the life lived, details of a unique personality, details of a sense of humour, core values and spiritual beliefs.

Last night I conducted a Christmas memorial service, everyone present had lost a loved one this year, each is on a journey, finding their way through their grief and each journey is as unique as those they have lost. Christmas can be a challenging time for those who grieve, it is a time when they feel the loss of their loved ones acutely. It is, therefore, a time to go gently and to be patient with the journey of grieving.

Some wise words from Helen Keller -

What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.

All that we love deeply become part of us.

 

Wedding Celebrations

Wedding Celebrations

For those who choose to wed, the celebration of a marriage is one of the most significant moments of life. It can be fraught with different emotions and stresses but it can also be fun and joyous for all of those concerned. The wedding of Ian and Michelle was certainly one which was designed to perfectly suit this gorgeous couple and their clan. Even though the conditions in Blackheath meant marrying inside rather than in the gardens surrounding, every detail was perfect. The couple and their friends worked tirelessly to style the space, Michelle's gown was designed by Ian's cousin  http://www.pearlbutton.com.au/  and it was my privilege to perform the ceremony. Ian and I had worked together as teachers at Springwood High so it was extra special to be able to work with them to create a ceremony based on their story and personal wishes. As a celebrant you don't usually get to enjoy the party but as a friend it was wonderful to see them amongst their loved ones celebrating their commitment to one another and their acknowledgement of the people who have helped to shape their lives and who are an important part of their life together. They were fortunate to have a local photographer http://www.silversalt.com.au/  to document the beginning of their life together as husband and wife. She took some amazing photos of the couple and their guests.

Telling the Story

Telling the Story

The last couple of weeks I have been busy with ceremonies and meetings with lovely people who have shared openly some of the most intimate stories from their lives. I should probably be writing a ceremony right now but it feels timely to reflect on the journey of recent times.

With funeral celebrations, a renewal of vows ceremony and preparations for weddings to come I have witnessed tears of joy and sorrow and been moved by the love I have witnessed, which has been in abundance. I have also been left feeling eternally grateful for the life that I have.

It can be a challenge to shape someone’s story in a way that is authentic and then to weave it into a ceremony that is unique but it is also something to be enjoyed. Seeing the faces of those gathered for the celebration and the looks of recognition and appreciation as they hear the words I have crafted, is rewarding and also very reassuring. I will never lose sight of the importance of telling each story in the right way…

A Reflection on Marriage

A Reflection on Marriage

I send out a survey of questions to couples that book me as their wedding celebrant. This is a regular practice and really helps me to create a personalised and unique ceremony. Of course I always include the proviso that all of the questions don’t have to be answered, I know how annoying it is to have to write a response to a question that is irrelevant or that is difficult answer. However, putting thought into constructing a response is really helpful to me as the celebrant and I think it can also help the couple in the process of preparing for marriage.

 

One of the questions I include is, what will marriage add to your relationship that you don’t already have? For some reason, the question stood out to me this week and made me think about the answer in a personal context, what did marriage bring to my relationship that wasn’t there before? You see, I didn’t come to marriage in a traditional way. The order in my life was way out when you consider what is usual.

 

My husband and I married after 15 years together having had our children, building a mud brick house together and establishing our careers. There was no order to these life achievements, things unfolded and over those fifteen years we built a life together. Eventually, after a previous conscious decision as young adults that we didn’t need a legal certificate to make our relationship a strong and lasting one, we finally decided that we wanted to marry.

 

Why? We thought it would be a nice thing to do. We knew our families would like it and we wanted to publicly declare our commitment to each other in front of our families and friends. I think that we finally knew that we wanted to grow old together.

 

Our wedding was very moving for us, both my husband and I cried, a lot. It was a modest affair, informal, a civil service followed by a backyard party. There were no attendants, I didn’t wear a dress and my husband didn’t wear a suit. Our children were there with us to witness the ceremony and celebration. We didn’t have a honeymoon until 15 years later and on our wedding night our toddler was in our bed.

 

So what did marriage bring to our relationship that it didn’t already have?

 

What it meant to us was profound. Our commitment was stated and witnessed, not just implicit, as we promised to be there for each other, forever. We had been totally committed already, to each other and to our children but the act of our wedding consolidated this in a real and powerful way. In that moment we were choosing to celebrate what we had become and what we were looking forward to in our future. We had survived substantial challenges and overcome personal tragedy and we had survived. We were okay and we knew we always would be. Of course, the main thing was the celebration of our love and our confidence that this love would stand up to anything that life dealt us, as long as we stayed true to the promises we made on that day.

Janne Sverdloff Celebrant

Spring

Spring

Spring is upon us and with it come the blossoms that herald new life, warmer weather and longer days. It’s no surprise that flowers are a constant in the celebrations that we share throughout our lives. The bouquets that are held at weddings, the arrangements that adorn altars, the posies that are presented to performers and the roses that symbolise love on Valentine’s Day.

 

Flowers delight the eye.

Their entire existence

Enriching countless minds.

One can never be thankful enough.

 

-       Prayer from the Japanese Buddhist tradition

 

Whoever it was that advised us to take the time to smell the roses had it right. How often are we rushed off our feet, running from errand to errand, task to task?

In a life celebration we literally slow down and inhabit the space created, in these moments we take the time to reflect and almost always the space contains the beauty and scent of flowers.

One can never be thankful enough…

Janne Sverdloff Celebrant

Cousins

Cousins

After my Dad passed away a couple of years ago I was exhausted and completely drained. The whole thing made me really miss my cousin Annie, who is more like a sister to me. We were very close growing up but as adults we’ve mostly lived long distances from each other and so we don’t get to see each other very often. It was sad not having Annie at Dad’s funeral and I felt a really strong need to see her. After a lot of soul searching I made the decision to throw caution to the wind and head to the north of Italy to spend a couple of weeks with her. Honestly, this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, it was so rejuvenating and in her presence I was really able to grieve and reminisce with lots of tears and also laughter. I feel very blessed to have Annie in my life, a pity we don’t get to see each other more often.